WASILLA — Dozens of Valley residents participated during a series of public meetings hosted by Recover Alaska and MyHouse Feb. 12 at the Menard Sports Center and Gathering Grounds Cafe.

The topic of both meetings centered on substance misuse and ways the community can foster recovery, additional local resources, collaboration, and advocacy for policy changes and overall improvements to the recovery process.

Recover Alaska is a multi-sector nonprofit organization that works to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption in Alaska. They teamed up with MyHouse to facilitate the two meetings.

The first meeting took place at the Menard Sports Center, titled “Our Stories Have Power: Storytelling, Advocacy and Policy Change.” It was designed to get participants to work together to create a vision for a “vibrant, recovery-ready Alaska.”

The workshop focused on teaching people how to tell stories to affect change and advocate for community resources that make recovery from addiction possible, from grant writing to speaking up to local legislatures.

After the storytelling workshop at the Menard Sports Center wrapped up, the second and final meeting of the day took place at Gathering Grounds Cafe for a community forum to discuss the elements of a “recovery-ready community,” including prevention, substance-free recreation, employment, education, recovery housing, and peer-based recovery support services.

Patty McCarthy, M.S., Executive Director of Faces & Voices of Recovery was the keynote speaker and special guest visiting from Washington, DC.

Faces & Voices of Recovery is an organization that works to organize and mobilize 23 million plus Americans in recovery for substance use, in addition to their families, friends and allies in the recovery community to demonstrate the “power and proof of long-term recovery.”

“The goal is to get more people in recovery,” McCarthy said.

They coordinate with various local and national organizations and networks to promote human rights and resources for those in recovery through advocacy, education, and by events like those recently held in Wasilla.

“I think we have laid some amazing groundwork here in the Valley for a recovery ready community and that was really validated through the workshops,” MyHouse Founder and Executive Director Michelle Overstreet said. “I’m looking forward to working more with the Faces and Voices of Recovery team to build on this platform to develop a wider continuum of care.”

Community members from many walks of life attended the two meetings, many of them working in the recovery field and even some walking the steps of recovery right now.

It was essentially a training exercise and a chance to ask important questions with the hopes of empowering each participant to affect positive change in the community.

McCarthy said that she’s been in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction since 1989. She said that one of the most important ways to destigmatize the experience for people in recovery is by using more positive and humane language when the topic comes up.

“You’ve got to make them understand recovery is a reality,” McCarthy said.

Simple changes like saying “substance misuse” or “people in recovery” instead of “substance abuse” and “addicts” goes a long way and helps break down barriers in the public’s eye.

“In the end, they’re people. We’re people. We’re people first, right?”

For more information about Recover Alaska, call 907-249-6645 or visit recoveralaska.org.

For more information MyHouse, call 907-373-4357, visit myhousematsu.org.

To learn more about the Faces & Voices of Recovery program, visit facesandvoicesofrecovery.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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